Noble Intentions by Persephone33
Past Featured StorySummary: First Place Winner in Pud's Great Draco & Ginny Contest 2007.
After the war is over, Ginny makes a vow to restore stolen items to their rightful owners.
Categories: Long and Completed Characters: Other Characters, Pansy Parkinson
Compliant with: None
Era: Post-Hogwarts
Genres: Humor, Romance
Warnings: Blood, Character Death
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 4 Completed: Yes Word count: 11090 Read: 23625 Published: Apr 17, 2007 Updated: Apr 17, 2007
Story Notes:
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Notes: I did lift two lines at the end of the story (as a sort of homage) from the movie To Catch a Thief. There are vague references to Grosse Pointe Blank, as well. Many thanks go to my betas: Miranthridel Bloom, who makes me laugh, and FreeDaChickens, who makes me wonder sometimes if I should wait for her corrections to come out in paperback. I appreciate you both so much!

1. Chapter 1 by Persephone33

2. Chapter 2 by Persephone33

3. Chapter 3 by Persephone33

4. Chapter 4 by Persephone33

Chapter 1 by Persephone33
Ginny clutched her bag of potions tightly to her chest as she Apparated to the Patil manor house with Fred and George. It was a testament to how thin the Order was spread; Ginny was no Mediwitch, yet here she was, helping Aurors, her twin brothers in this case, respond to the calls in the wake of Death Eaters still wreaking havoc. Voldemort’s followers were angered to the point of being maniacal after their Lord had been killed some weeks earlier.

Ginny had expected the Death Eaters to go rather quietly, once their leader was finished, but unfortunately, this was not to be. The Death Eaters had been on a devastating rampage, going to what they called the ‘Blood Traitor’s’ houses, killing their occupants and actually taking things from their homes as trophies. The very thought of thievery left a horrible taste in her mouth. That particular crime had never really been a problem in the wizarding community before. She thought it ironic that such a Muggle activity would be pursued by the followers of one of the most anti-Muggle wizards in history.

She heard two soft pops and knew that Fred and George were right behind her. Just in the past few days, Ginny and her brothers had responded to calls at he Bones’, the Longbottom home, the Vance manor, and had even had word that the Death Eaters had been to The Burrow, though none of her family had been there at the time. All of the children had moved out, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were staying at Grimmauld Place for protection. Only Bill had gone to see the damage, and had reported that not only was most of the house destroyed, but they had taken the Weasley clock as well. Ginny had come close to tears when she heard that. That clock was part of what made The Burrow home. None of the other Weasleys had been there to see the damage that was done. None had wanted to.

“Alright then,” Fred began. “Malfoy said there are survivors here. Let’s go.”

She tried not to roll her eyes at the sound of Draco Malfoy’s name. The bastard had turned from the dark side and was helping the Order, like Snape, but he still bore the Dark Mark. In her considered opinion, he was still one of them, however much information he passed to the Order.

Ginny shook her head and focused her attention on the sight in front of her. Great strips of earth were scorched on either side of the house, almost as though it had been engulfed by a ring of flames. The front door hung forlorn from a single hinge, and the entryway of what had once undoubtedly been a very stately manor was reduced to desolate piles of rubble.

She heard Fred’s voice call her from a room to her left. “Oi, Ginny! Over here!”

She quickly moved to the sound of her brother’s voice and found him, in what ‘must have been the family’s sitting room,’ she thought, in a detached manner. He was crouched next to Parvati Patil, whose long black hair was caked with drying blood from a wound on the back of her head.

Ginny worked quickly to mend Parvati’s largest wounds, and gave her a painkilling potion, all the while murmuring in an attempt to soothe the young witch, who was as close to being hysterical as one could be in her condition.

“They killed Mum! They killed Mum! While I watched, Ginny! They got Padma, too!” She broke down into wrenching sobs. “What will I do without her, Ginny? She’s the other half of me!”

Parvati pointed to a place above the ruined, caved-in fireplace. “They got the portrait, Padma’s prized possession, Ginny! She used to love talking to her.” She fisted her hands in Ginny’s robes and brought her down closer to her face. The witch drew a ragged breath. “Please, Ginny. Get it back. Get it back for Padma.” She looked at the redheaded men peering over Ginny’s shoulder. “Please. Promise me. Promise me, Ginny.”

Ginny loosened the other girl’s hands from her robes. “Yes, alright, Parvati. I’ll get it. You’ll be fine. Quiet down now,” she whispered, looking around. By Ginny’s calculations, the Death Eaters had spared Parvati’s father and younger sister, but they were nowhere to be found.

The witch visibly relaxed, a combination of the potion beginning to work and Ginny’s words calming her. “Thank you, Ginny. I knew I could count on you. For Padma.”

Ginny patted the woman who, despite being a year older than her, seemed so young and helpless. She rose to look at the rectangular spot left unfaded by the sun on the wallpaper above the mantle. “Who is it a portrait of, Parvati?” Ginny asked, looking up at the bare spot, but Fred was the one to answer.

“She’s gone.”

Ginny turned around. “What?” she asked, unbelieving.

Fred’s mouth set in a line and George rose to stand next to his twin. “She’s gone. The cleanup crew will be here soon. Let’s go.”

Ginny felt the tears begin behind her brown eyes, and forced them back. She didn’t want to appear weak in front of her brothers. “I’ll stay with her, you go on.”

Fred looked at George, who nodded. “Are you sure, Gin?”

“Yeah. She deserves that.”

After the two wizards Disapparated, Ginny sank to the floor next to her friend’s body and allowed the tears to come. She was so tired of it; tired of the death and the devastation of war, tired of the Dark Wizards, too tired to even be angry. She missed everyone who had died so much it hurt, especially the people that had died in her arms while she tried clumsily to tend to their injuries. She had made countless promises in the last moments of many wizards’ lives in the past year, to give loved ones messages, to tell children that they were loved, but now she had promised something that she couldn’t deliver. Tears seeped out of her eyes as she clenched and unclenched her hands.

She sat and let herself cry for a moment. It wasn’t often that she got to be alone these days, so she took the opportunity to let out her emotions freely. Wiping her eyes with her sleeve after her cathartic outburst, she stood and moved to what had once been a lovely bay window and looked out over the grounds. She had to get through this, but when the war was over, she would make restitution. She would do it for Parvati, as she had promised, but she would try to make things right for people hurt by the war. She had to.

“I’m sorry, Parvati. I’ll try. For Padma.”


*********************************************

Ginny swirled the tip of her wand in the silvery liquid of the Pensieve thoughtfully. For the past month, she had been plagued by dreams and nightmares of that particular night five years ago. She thought back to it again, thinking of how little progress she’d made on her promise to her old schoolmate.

She sighed deeply. Much of it could simply be attributed to not knowing what the hell she was looking for, as well as life moving on. She had gone through Auror training and had spent the last four years with a partner that, if she didn’t exactly like, she had at least come to grudgingly respect. Babies had been born, not to her of course, being unattached and unmarried, but her brothers and their wives had been busy populating the Wizarding world with enough prodigies for Gryffindor to have several years’ worth of Quidditch players. She thought idly that Grandpa Arthur might take a leaf out of Walter Parkin’s book and found another family-based Quidditch team.

She had started a life of independence, separating amicably from Harry, moving away from her family, creating a life for herself. She had wanted to help people; she wanted to do good for the wizarding world. Unfortunately, the Aurors weren’t needed much anymore. The vast majority of dark wizards and Death Eaters had eventually either gone into hiding or become respectable members of the community. Ginny had even come to like some of them.

Ginny collected her thoughts and hurriedly put the Pensieve away. She didn’t want to have to explain to her partner why she had it out again. Her partner. She’d spent quite a lot of time hating him over the years, but couldn’t really even do that properly anymore, as she felt she owed him for getting her out of a few rather nasty scrapes. It softened her attitude towards him somewhat, but she still didn’t want to have to explain the Pensive to him. He would probably tease her about it and she didn’t have the strength for that today. Although, admittedly, he teased her less and less these days. He had been strangely attentive, in an embarrassingly amorous way, and it was getting very hard to ignore. They had been partners for what seemed like forever, but just in the last year his behaviour towards her had changed.

She had just closed her desk drawer when the man she’d just been thinking about strode through the door. “Come on, Weasley. You know you want to.” He put a steaming cup of caramel coloured liquid on her desk.

It was a daily ritual for their office. He’d come in with her coffee, throw out an innuendo, and ask her out. He’d done this nearly every day for the last six months. Every day, she’d turn him down. It didn’t seem to diminish his enthusiasm, however. Instead, he always redoubled his efforts.

She prodded the coffee with her wand.

“I’m not trying to poison you, you know.” The bastard even favoured her with one of his rare, and - though she would only admit this privately - breathtaking smiles.

She didn’t like him. She tolerated him because he was the only person who could fix her morning coffee without ruining it. But she didn’t like him. She didn’t. Even though he was sweet to her. And thoughtful. And brought her coffee every morning and soup when she was sick. And he always made sure that she had fresh flowers on her desk.

She smirked. “You can’t be too careful.”

“Have dinner with me.”

“No, Malfoy.”

“You’d get to dress up, go to a very large mansion, and be nasty to a whole different group of people. I know you’re getting bored being awful to only me.” He paused thoughtfully. “The food’s usually good, as well.”

“Malfoy?”

He sat down at his desk and picked up a quill. “Yes, Weasley?”

“I do not want to socialize with you outside of the work that we do. It might compromise our partnership… erm, dynamic. I am your partner here at the Ministry. Outside the Ministry, Malfoy, I want nothing to do with you. I’ve told you time and time again. What must I do to prove this?”

Malfoy grinned at her again, momentarily rendering her speechless. She really wished he wouldn’t smile. The wretched beast was really far too attractive when he did that.

“I’m wearing you down. It’s only a matter of time.”

She looked at him in confusion. “Pardon?”

“You wouldn’t claim to be my partner a year ago, even though we’d shared the office for three years.”

She frowned. “Oh, right.” That much was true. She hadn’t even spoken to him for the first two months they’d been paired together. Then came the surprise raids. She then thought she was extremely lucky to have him for a partner. He really was a great wizard; he had saved her life two separate times, both when she’d thought no one would be able to find her, or get to her in time.

“Seriously, Weasley. The Notts’ ball. Actually, I suppose it would just be Nott’s ball, as he’s the only one of the Notts left. It’s the best of the season. Well, besides the Parkinsons’ ball. Or my own. I don’t want to have to call in the wizard’s debt you owe me, but I might,” he teased.

The wheels in Ginny’s mind began to turn. She had a thought, an idea forming in the recesses of her mind. Something was telling her to accept his invitation. In an instant, she decided to throw caution to the wind and, for the first time since he’d started asking, not turn him down flat.

He put his quill down and looked at her, frowning slightly. “I was kidding about the wizard’s debt, you know that, right?” At her absentminded nod, he continued, looking delighted, “Wait a minute. Weasley? Does that mean you’re actually considering my invitation?”



“Perhaps.”

He put the two forefingers of his left hand to the pulse point at his throat.

Ginny half-rose from her seat. “What’s wrong?”

“Just checking to see if my heart had stopped. I’m shocked, that’s all.”

“Enough with the sarcasm, Malfoy.”

He let his hand fall. “So, is that a yes? Will you come to Nott’s ball with me?”

Ginny pursed her lips and sat back down. “I will. But only to keep an eye on some of the most horrific of wizardkind, and to make sure that you behave yourself. And the fact that I’ve rather a soft spot for Theo.”

He nodded, narrowing his eyes but smirking slightly. “Of course.”

“You did mention that I’d get to be nasty to Parkinson, right?”

“Yes, Pansy should be there. She’ll be thrilled to have a worthy adversary. It’s been months since she’s had a real challenge. I’ll tell her to be sure to sharpen her claws.”

“Ha, bloody ha.”

“Excellent. I’ll owl our R.S.V.P.” He moved to the doorway, mumbling ‘fantastic.’ He stopped suddenly and turned around. “You won’t be disappointed, you know.”

She looked at him, at the almost two meters of him framed in the doorway, smiling at her. She tried to ignore the butterflies in her stomach and turned her attention back to the paperwork in front of her.

“Mmm. I’m sure, Malfoy. I’m sure.”
Chapter 2 by Persephone33
Ginny looked at her reflection in the full length mirror on the back of her bathroom door. She’d tried to go for classy, but with her figure if she wore anything with a daring neck or hemline she just ended up looking cheap, in her opinion. The dress was one that she’d bought especially for this occasion and was sure to give Pansy Parkinson enough ammunition for the next year. She had a generous amount of cleavage showing from the neckline of the coffee-coloured evening gown. The thin straps showed off her shoulders and the fabric clung to her hips. The slit up the leg, well, she thought she could probably do something about that.

She sighed, reminding herself for perhaps the hundredth time that this was not really a date, but a way to check private homes for ‘misplaced’ artefacts from the war. She didn’t really think Theo would have any, but, then again, Theo was nothing like his late parents. Mr. and Mrs. Nott had definitely been some of the worst of the Death Eater lot.

She had decided that she would accompany Malfoy to this party, and at the same time, conveniently tie up some loose ends from her own life as well. At this point, Ginny felt she would do anything to make the nightmares of the last few weeks go away. She desperately wanted to put the past behind her and thought that using Malfoy was likely the only way that she, as a Weasley, could ever be invited to some of the ‘darker’ wizard’s houses. The fact that he was easy on the eyes in dress robes had nothing whatsoever to do with her decision. It was business. Sort of. Mostly.

Sighing, she grabbed her wand from the nightstand, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth, and tried fervently to remember a tailoring charm. She was about to resort to needle and thread when the wards chimed, signalling a visitor had arrived. She went to the door, wand held absently in her hand, and opened it, unsurprised to find her ‘date’ for the evening.

Draco Malfoy stood resplendent in traditional dress robes, charming smile in place, bouquet of flowers in hand, and looking for all the world like a perfect gentleman. He stepped in to her flat without saying anything.

Ginny raised an eyebrow. “You know, you should talk less. It’s very becoming when you just stand around and look pretty.”

“It’s what I do.” He replied with a disgustingly elegant shrug, before holding out the bouquet for her to take. “These are for you.”

“Right.” She took the flowers from him and before she could leave for the kitchen, he put out a hand to stop her.

“Weasley, those are some impressive wards out there. Are you seriously afraid you’ll be attacked?

“Constant vigilance,” she answered simply.

He snorted, suppressing a slight twitch at the mere allusion to the man who’d transfigured him once.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Right. Well, I’ll go put these in some Draught of Living Death, then.”

He nodded. “Good.”

She left the room, and he took the opportunity to have a look around. It was a modest flat. He’d never been invited before and wasn’t completely certain he’d ever be again.

There were pictures of ginger-haired people everywhere, smiling and waving, a basket of stitching, and a bookshelf stuffed with more books than it could possibly hold. It had both huge tomes and paperbacks, books on the ancient Egyptian wizards, titles on obscure charms and curses, and what looked like a half dozen rather trashy romance novels. He gave her full marks for the literary gamut she apparently ran. There was an overstuffed, flower-patterned sofa, a rocking chair, and a hall tree with bags and coats hung haphazardly on its hooks. A jumble of boots and shoes lay at its base. The flat was what he imagined people called ‘cosy’, but what his mother would have disparaged as ‘untidy’ or ‘cluttered’, which in Narcissa-speak was roughly on par with ‘war zone’, ‘ebolic’, and ‘third world-esque’. He decided not to mention this to his partner.

He turned from the bookshelves when she entered the room, inordinately pleased that she’d placed his floral gift in water rather than killing them, and looked at her properly for the first time that evening.

She looked amazing. The colour of the dress complimented her hair and skin, and she had a flush on her face that he thought was extremely becoming. The slit up the skirt of the garment ought to have been illegal, and he knew that every wizard at the party would be falling over themselves to dance with her. The dress that she was tugging on left just enough to the imagination that he wanted to have a peek at what it did cover. He silently cursed the Auror robes they wore to work every day, now that he knew what was covered by their cursed, voluminous folds.

“You look lovely.”

She rolled her eyes again. “Shut up. Do you know any tailoring charms?”

He eyed her speculatively. “Why do you ask?”

“This dress shows too much leg.”

His gaze moved down to the slice of creamy thigh peeking out from the high slit of the caramel skirt. He knew tailoring charms aplenty, after all, he had spent countless hours in dress shops with his mother when he was younger, but he wasn’t about to share this knowledge and ruin his view tonight. “No,” he lied, smiling. “But you’re wrong. It’s very appealing.”

“It’s trashy,” she complained.

“It’s perfect,” he countered gently.

She met his gaze with a distrustful eye. “Really? It’s okay?” She spun around slowly.

Draco thought he might have heart palpitations right then and there. “Yes, Ginny, you look fine,” he said. Inwardly, he continued. Amazing. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Terrifically shaggable.

Tiny wrinkles appeared on her forehead as Ginny frowned. “I don’t know which I take more offence from, Malfoy. ‘Ginny’ or ‘fine,’” she pouted.

Draco steeled his emotions, reminding himself that this was a marathon, not a sprint. This girl, however, was not making it easy on him at all. He thought that if she pushed her bottom lip out any further he’d have no choice but to—

“Malfoy?” she queried, “Are you ready?”

His attention snapped out of the daydream he’d drifted into momentarily. He took her cloak from her hands and put it around her shoulders, smiling. “I am,” he replied. “Shall we?”

Without waiting for a response from his date, he pulled her closely to his side and Apparated them both to the ball.

**************************************************************

Ginny wasn’t angry. It wasn’t that strong of an emotion.

Ginny was dissatisfied. Not by the food, or the music, or even the company. Pansy had thrown a few half-hearted insults her way, and Ginny had parried well, but there was no real heat behind either of the girls’ barbs.

To her surprise, Draco Malfoy had proved to be an excellent companion. He made small talk effortlessly with all of the people they met, introduced her seamlessly, and then made her giggle uncontrollably by making witty comments about the same wizards the moment they turned their back. He danced flawlessly, making her feel graceful, feminine, and weightless. He had impeccable manners, was the consummate gentleman, and, most of all, made her feel comfortable around a group of wizards that she had been sure she wouldn’t fit in with.

She was having a good time. Damn him, he was truly making using him a hard thing to do. She only wanted to come to this party in the first place to find out what war spoils Nott might have stashed away. She saw a few likely pieces, and thought it particularly daring that Theo had put up a suit of armour with what was clearly the Vance family crest emblazoned on the chest. Or perhaps it was clear only to her.

She wanted to think the best of Theo; after his parents had been killed, he had come out of hiding and fought with the Order. Malfoy had vouched for him at the time. She and Theo had even saved each other once, as well. They had never spoken of it since, but it was there. And now, on her way to the loo, Ginny had noticed this suit of armour and couldn’t get it out of her head. Jumbled thoughts of Theo, Malfoy, Parvati, and that wretched Pensieve memory ran rampant through her head. Feeling a bit dizzy, she sat down on a bench in the enormous hallway.

“I wondered where you’d got to.”

His voice pulled her from the mess of her thoughts and she looked up to find Malfoy lounging against the wall, gazing at her.

“Oh. I just needed a rest.”

“From the dancing or the company?”

She gave him a small smile in reply. He sat down beside her on the bench across from the suit of armour. She relented. “I have had a nice time tonight, Malfoy.”

“You say that like you’re surprised.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t be?”

He stood and extended his arm. “Have a last dance then, and I’ll get you home before you turn into a pumpkin.”

She smiled and took his arm. “Alright.”

As they walked down the hallway, he covered her hand in the crook of his arm with his own, and she had to put forth effort to control the giddy feeling that started in her stomach. Yes, she thought to herself. Using Draco Malfoy is going to be a tricky business.

************************************************

Two weeks after Malfoy had escorted her to the ball at Theodore Nott’s manor, the two partners were sitting in their office catching up on paperwork when their former host popped his head in their office door. “Hello, you two.”

Malfoy stood and welcomed the man into their office. “Nott. What brings you to our little corner of the Ministry?”

The tall, thin man took Ginny’s hand and pressed his lips to the back of her fingers. “Who can stay away from such beauty?”

Ginny smiled at him. Her back to her partner, she didn’t notice Draco clear his throat while glaring at his former housemate.

“Did you stop by for something more than to drool on the back of my partner’s hand, Nott?

Theo looked at him with an amused expression. “Proprietary, aren’t we, Malfoy?”

Before Malfoy could threaten him with bodily harm, Ginny decided to intervene. “Theo, please sit down. What can we do for you?”

Their guest sat down in one of the unoccupied seats between the Aurors’ desks and sighed heavily. “I’m not exactly here on official Ministry business.”

Draco rose and closed the outer door to the office. “Oh? And what can we,” he said, sparing a glance at Ginny, “do for you unofficially?”

“Well, the thing is,” Theo began, looking embarrassed, “a couple of days after the ball, someone broke into the manor.”

Draco frowned. “Someone got through your wards? You’re as paranoid as Weasley here.”

Ginny blushed but refused to look down as Theo continued. “I wouldn’t have even noticed, but the house elves notified me that a suit of armour was missing. They were all a dither about not having enough to clean.”

Draco snorted, and Ginny looked away from a spot on the wall that had been occupying her attention. “What would you like for us to do, Theo?” she asked softly.

“I vaguely remember seeing the piece, but I don’t care if I ever get it back. It’s probably something my parents picked up on their world travels; I don’t really know,” he said, giving Draco a look. “It’s just the fact that someone was in the house. Do you think you could check it out? Unofficially? The paper trail if I went through the proper channels would be a nightmare.”

Ginny looked at her partner. “Yes, Theo. I think we could do that for a friend.”

******************************

Later that evening, Draco and Ginny found themselves walking the muddy perimeter of the Nott mansion. Ginny sighed with disgust as her favourite heels squelched down into the black mud.

“You should have worn proper boots,” Draco observed.

“Yes, thanks, Mum. As I wasn’t exactly prepared to do this today, I really can’t be blamed for inappropriate footwear.” She tutted. “I do hope they’re not ruined.”

“No. A good cleaning charm should fix them up.”

“Malfoy, what the hell would you know about cleaning charms?”

“I know that whoever broke into the house should have used one. There.” He pointed to some mud on the grey stone of the outer wall of the house. “Theo’s thief broke in here.”

Ginny looked at him in disbelief. “How could you possibly know that?

He cast a revealing charm on the window. “See? The wards are stronger here, as if they’d been recast recently. The layers of magic on these wards are very well done. This must be a very talented wizard. And he must’ve been small as well, because he left mud from his boots where he had to brace himself against the house to get through the window. It the intruder were tall, he could’ve just swung a leg over, yeah?”

Ginny smirked at him. “Have you been watching Muggle television, Malfoy?”

“No,” he answered, looking horrified, and a bit sheepish.

She smirked unrepentantly in his direction. “Alright, alright. Tell me more about this so-called ‘intruder.’”

“Let’s go inside.” She tried to ignore the fact that she liked it a little too much when he put his hand at her elbow to guide her steps through the mud.

They walked around to the front of the building and entered through the grand front doors. After one elf took their cloaks, another showed them to the window they’d just viewed from the outside.

This time Draco cast a different revealing charm and showed Ginny where the house elves had cleaned the floor in a direct path to the empty spot where the suit of armour had been the last time they were in the hallway, as if the thief’s shoes had made marks the elves had cleaned up. Draco seemed to be lost in thought, staring at the empty space before them.

Ginny peered up at him. “Where did you learn those spells, Malfoy?” Why don’t I know them? I don’t remember them being taught at the Ministry when I was going through Auror training.”

Draco shook his head. “No, they aren’t Ministry approved. But then, this isn’t an official investigation, right?” he replied with a crooked smile.

She cleared her throat impatiently. “Where did you learn them?”

He sighed deeply. “My father was paranoid, Weasley. Very paranoid. He was forever thinking of how to keep from getting caught in his illegal dealings. He developed those charms for his own use,” he said as he sank onto the stone bench.

“Ah. So what do you think happened to it?” she asked, gesturing vaguely to the empty spot in the hallway, before sitting next to him.

“I think that by the levels of trace magic, we can safely assume that he shrank the armour and Disapparated.”

Ginny nodded and stayed silent for a moment.

“What do you think?” he asked.

She shook her head and shrugged. “That seems as likely a scenario as any. Why though? Why Theo? Why only that piece? There’s lots of other, more valuable stuff here.”

He squinted at her briefly. “Why indeed?” He rose and turned to her, holding out a hand to help her up. “Any thoughts on how we could modify the wards to keep the thief out again?”

She accepted his help, stood and he dropped her hand. She frowned. “Well, yes, I know a few tricks. Let’s go find Theo and I’ll show him some things my brother showed me about wards when he was working in Egypt.”

They began walking up the hallway. Draco cleared his throat. “So, Weasley. The Parkinsons’ annual ball is next weekend. Care to attend? I know how you do so love to taunt Pansy.”

She hid a smile. “I don’t know, Malfoy. I’m really used to turning you down when I have a full cup of coffee in front of me.”

He chuckled. “Shall I summon an elf to make it easier for you?”

She smiled at him. “No. But if I accept . . . are you sure that me being seen publicly with you won’t compromise our working relationship? I’d rather like to keep that as it is.”

He stopped walking and spun her to look at him. “Listen. I don’t want to force you into doing anything you don’t want to do. But I also can’t promise that things will stay as they are. If, if you accept my invitation, and you keep accepting my invitations, things will change. It’s inevitable, Weasley.”

She looked up at him, and of all the times she’d ever seen him, this was the first time he’d ever looked vulnerable. She didn’t understand how everything had changed. She’d been fine. Fine. And then he just had to start asking her out. And he had to be charming. And handsome. And kind. Somehow it seemed like it’d be easier for everyone involved if he was still the arse he’d been at school. But he wasn’t, and now he had hold of her arm and was as close to her now as they’d been when they last danced.

All I wanted was for the nightmares to go away. All I wanted to do was to fulfil my promises. Now all I want is for him to kiss me. Oh, this does complicate things, she thought.
Chapter 3 by Persephone33
Five short days later, Ginny found herself again staring at the mirror on the back of her bathroom door. She squinted sceptically at her reflection.

It’s expensive, she thought, dating Draco Malfoy. She clipped the tag off the dress she was wearing. In her opinion, it was every bit as bad as the one she’d worn last time. She had even told the saleswitch she’d wanted “classy” and “understated.” What she’d come home with was a strapless, backless, dark green, floor-length number made of a very expensive satin. It’s a bloody good thing that Malfoy brings me fancy coffee every morning or I might not deem him worth all this, she mused. She smirked at herself. That was just not true. Despite what she tried to tell herself, the blond wizard was definitely growing on her.

She turned her attention back to the problem (or problems, actually) at hand. She needed some kind of sticking charm to keep the top of the garment where it should be. Perhaps double sided spellotape would work. She began rummaging in a drawer when the wards clanged, signalling Malfoy’s arrival. She kicked the black leggings, sweater and mask she’d used the previous month under the bed. Not that he’ll be coming back here, anyway, she thought.

Ginny sighed. She wasn’t ready yet. She hadn’t found her shoes, and hadn’t finished her hair or her makeup. Guh. It was just like him to be punctual. She went to the door and yanked it open, irritated at being caught late.

A young, teary-eyed girl stood in the opening. A girl Ginny recognized immediately, and fought back panic at seeing. It was Evaline Vance, the late Emmaline Vance’s great niece.

“Miss Weasley? I just wanted to thank you,” the girl gushed, launching herself at Ginny.

Ginny flushed scarlet and patted the girl’s back awkwardly while scanning the hallway for any sign of her date.

Evaline continued her effusiveness. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Ginny frowned and feigned confusion, gently extracting herself from the girl’s embrace. “Thank me? For what?”

“For returning a piece of my heritage. I’ve been working non-stop on the note you left with it and finally managed a tracking spell.”

Ginny mentally rolled her eyes. Had she had the flu that week at Hogwarts? Did everyone know tracking and tracing spells but her?

The girl was still talking. “…and I’m sorry, I know you must’ve wanted to remain anonymous, but I just had to know who my benefactor was so that I might thank them. I don’t even want to know who had the armour; I’m only happy that our family has it back.” She sniffled and dabbed a handkerchief at her eyes. “I won’t keep you. I see you’re getting ready for some fancy dress party. Big date, I guess?”

Ginny murmured an affirmative. “Erm, Evaline, could you just not mention this to anyone? I thought I’d cloaked the note well enough, actually.” She lowered her voice and scanned the hallway again. “My job could be at stake.”

This sent the girl into a flutter. “Oh, yes, Miss Weasley, of course. I’m so sorry; I just wanted to thank you personally. I’ll be going. Certainly. Mum’s the word. Of course. Thank you again--”

Ginny was fairly certain that she would’ve talked all day if she hadn’t closed the door in her face. She sighed and leaned her back against the door. Fine excuse for a cat burglar I am, she thought with a tinge of disgust. Malfoy deduces how I took the wretched thing down to the precise footsteps, and a witch fresh out of Hogwarts figures out my ‘anonymous’ note. She shook her head. She’d definitely have to be more careful next time, providing the Parkinsons had anything that wasn’t in its proper home.

The wards clanged again, causing Ginny to jump and let out a small cry. She jerked the door open and glared at the occupant of the entryway.

Draco stood smiling at her, with a beautiful bouquet of pink roses. He held them out to her.

“These are for you.”

She took them and smirked at him. “Thanks. I’ll just go run them through the disposal, then.”

“The what?” He shook his head. “Never mind. Excellent.”

Draco admired her retreating form, liking what this new dress did for her backside. When she returned with the flowers in a vase, he suppressed a smile. She put the arrangement down on an end table.

“Lovely dress.”

“Thanks,” she replied. “Know any sticking charms?”

He grinned. “No.”

She rolled her eyes. “Figures. You know all sorts of random spells that I don’t on any given day, but I need something specific, and you’re useless.” She shook her head. “Listen, I’m not quite, erm, done getting ready yet,” she gestured vaguely at herself. “Got to give Pansy some ammunition, you know.”

“Of course.”

She summoned tea from the kitchen. “Make yourself at home, I guess,” she said uncomfortably.

“Don’t worry. I won’t touch anything.”

She blushed. “No, no. It’s not that. That’s not even what I meant. I’m sure your home is much nicer than this, but it’s all I’ve got, so you’ll have to make do for a few moments.”

“It’s very nice,” he said sincerely.

She peered at him closely to see if he was teasing her. After a moment, she decided he must be serious. “Oh, well… oh. Okay. I’ll go finish up. I’ll only be a few minutes.”

He nodded. “Take your time.”

She left him seated on the sofa with a cup of tea and retreated to her room to work minor miracles.

Draco put the teacup down on the table and glanced in the direction that Ginny had left. If he wasn’t mistaken, and Malfoys very rarely were, he’d just been fussed over. By Ginny Weasley. He stood and smiled to himself. Perseverance. He was definitely wearing her down. Never let it be said that he gave up on something before its time.

His gaze wandered about the room, and he crossed over to give her bookshelves a closer look. He was interested in that book of Egyptian magic he’d seen here last time, but it wasn’t there anymore. He gave the room a cursory glance to see if it had been moved to a table or some other nook. He found nothing but a stack of magazines, an empty carrier bag, and the messy hall tree, complete with a dirty set of boots.

Draco frowned. He recognized the bag as being from an upscale shop that his mother had always frequented. Surely Ginny hadn’t purchased something new just for this? He knew the salary of an Auror didn’t go far, especially if you didn’t have the Malfoy trust fund to fall back on. He suddenly felt guilty and secretly pleased all at once. She had obviously wanted to look nice. For him.

“Alright, Malfoy, I’m ready.”

He turned around to look at her. She was, simply put, lovely. Her red hair fell in loose waves over her shoulders; the locks complimenting the fairness of her skin and the deep green of the dress. The dress showed a fair amount of bare skin, but the girl wearing it did not look tarty at all. Not many witches could pull off a dress like that, but Ginny Weasley did it perfectly.

She flushed pink again. “What?”

He shook his head. “Merely enjoying the view.”

“Oh. Well. Hmm. Well.” She cleared her throat. “Claws and wits sharpened, I’m ready for Parkinson.”

“Let’s not keep her waiting, then. I’m sure everyone at the ball will enjoy the catfight.”

“Amusing, I’m sure, Malfoy.”

He placed her cloak around her shoulders and drew her close to him. Her breath caught in her throat as he whispered in her ear, “You look beautiful tonight.”

She looked up at him, her face just centimetres away from his, and replied, “Thank you.”

With a soft pop, they were gone.

**********************************************

The Parkinsons’ ball was even more sumptuous than Nott’s, almost as if they were playing a game of one-upmanship. The food was better, the desserts more elaborate, the wizards and witches in attendance even more diverse and interesting. There were artists and aurors, apothecaries and alchemists, and there were even fabulous drinks circulated about on trays by house elves. Ginny was impressed, despite herself. Pansy wasn’t even her usual nasty self. She had greeted Ginny and Draco warmly at the door and ordered a house elf to take their cloaks. They exchanged pleasantries for a moment before their host glided off to greet more of her guests.

Ginny looked at Draco with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, Weasley?”

“Don’t go all innocent, Malfoy. It doesn’t suit you. Your face looks ridiculous.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”

She smiled at him as if placating a child. “Oh, alright. I’ll play along. Tell me, then, oh innocent one, why Miss Pansy Parkinson did not make even the slightest hint of an insinuation that I look like a tart in this dress?”

“Perhaps because you don’t.”

She was pleased at the compliment but pretended not to notice. “That never stopped her before. It hasn’t mattered before today. She’s very reliable. She’s been that way as long as I can remember. She throws a barb, I retaliate. That’s the way we work.” She took a step closer to him. “What have you done?”

Draco raised his hands. “Again, I feel I must protest. You seem to think I’ve done something to ruin your fun? I assure you, I have not.” He placed a finger under her chin and tipped her face up so that he could look at her. “You do look extraordinary tonight. That colour suits you.”

All at once, Ginny found herself swept up into the moment. He was terribly handsome and complimentary; he seemed to always anticipate every need she might ever have, even before she voiced it. She looked up into his grey-blue eyes that were smiling ever so slightly, looking directly at her. It was almost as if she were standing on the outside, watching herself fall for him.

He tilted her chin up slightly more and leaned closer to her. His scent enveloped her. He smelled of expensive cologne, subtly used, but underneath that she could detect an earthy, masculine scent that was unique only to him. Some primal, heretofore unacknowledged part of her responded to that and she closed the distance between their lips and kissed him. Their lips touched, a brush, really, before she pressed them against his, and then blessedly, he took over. The hand cupping her chin moved to the back of her neck, and he placed the other in the small of her back, pulling her body flush with his.

She felt dizzy and elated at the same time. One very small part of her was saying, Stop kissing your co-worker, in a very stern voice, but the rest of her was too busy screaming, What took you so long to do this, you idiot?

He pulled back, looking into her eyes and smiled slightly, silent for several seconds.

Ginny smiled back at him. “Well, I’ve finally done it.”

“Done what?” he asked.

“I’ve rendered Draco Malfoy speechless.” She smoothed down the lapel of his robes. “They said it couldn’t be done.”

“They?”

She nodded and gestured vaguely. “Yes, they. You know. Them. The almighty they, whoever they are.”

“Ah,” he replied.

She sighed contentedly. “Should we wait here until you can string more than a few words together at a time?”

“Would you care to dance?”

“You know, I think that’s a wonderful idea.”

He led her to the polished parquet floor, and she couldn’t decide if the tingles she felt in the places he touched her were imagined, or very, very real.


Later that night, after some older wizards had cornered Draco to spin tales about his father, Ginny found herself alone in an alcove just off the ballroom. She exhaled slowly, and relaxed a bit for the first time that evening. Just as she was about to re-enter the ballroom, she heard Pansy talking to Malevia Morrow, one of the wizarding world’s leading authorities on magical art.

“…I don’t even know how long it’s been in the family. Here, I’ll show you.”

From where she was standing, she saw Pansy pull back a tapestry, underneath which hung a beautifully done portrait of Rowena Ravenclaw, looking decidedly ticked off.

Pansy giggled slightly at the expression on the portrait’s face. “I had to silence her. She was just so self-righteous. I won’t be talked down to in my own house by anyone, you know, let alone by oil on canvas.”

While the other witch murmured niceties, Ginny’s mind began working furiously. Her memory from the night at the Patil’s floated before her as if she were in the Pensieve, Parvati’s words whispering in her ear, “And they got the portrait, Padma’s prized possession, Ginny. She used to love talking to her.”

Ginny sank back against the wall. She knew what had to be done. Restitution had to be made. She had promised. The really tricky part in all of this was Draco. She was genuinely coming to like him. Hell, she was attracted to him, and for the first time in their relationship, she actually cared if he liked her. She knew that he, both as her partner and her friend, would be angry if he found out that she had used him as a means to an end. She frowned, putting that thought completely out of her head. He wouldn’t have to know. But, even if he did, he’d just have to understand.


***********************************************

Very early the next morning, the remaining members of the Patil family received a portrait-sized package in plain brown wrapping with a note that read:

In remembrance of Padma and Parvati. No thanks necessary.

The note had a strong untraceable charm firmly in place.

******************************************

Draco stormed into their office a couple of days later. “Pansy’s house was hit. She just told me all about it.”

Ginny suppressed a smile at her partner’s choice of words. “Hit? You mean broken into?” She struggled to maintain a straight face. “Are you sure you haven’t been watching Muggle television?”

“No, of course not,” he replied nonchalantly. “And yes. That’s exactly what I mean.”

She schooled her features into what she hoped would pass for benignly interested. “What did they get?”

“That’s just it, he replied. It’s the same M.O. as Nott’s place last month. There was a Muggle style break-in and only one thing was taken. It has to be the same guy.”

“M.O.?” Ginny asked incredulously.

“Modus Operandi. Oh, for Merlin’s sake. Didn’t you take Latin?”

“I know what it means, Malfoy.”

“You’re missing the point completely. Pansy doesn’t want an official investigation either, but I think we should check it out.”

“Oh, absolutely.” She steadied her breathing as she watched him gather his things to Apparate to Parkinson Manor. He didn’t know. There was no way he would find out.

“Are you ready to catch a thief?” he asked.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she answered, forcing a smile onto her lips. “Let’s go.”

*******************************************

The entire time that they had been at Pansy’s investigating the crime, Ginny had her breath held, hoping beyond hope not to be discovered. Pansy hadn’t been there, but Draco had performed all the same revealing spells. This time, however, Ginny had been more prepared. While stealing the Patils’ portrait, she had cast extra concealing charms and very strong anti-tracking spells to cloak her thievery. She’d been very careful.

This frustrated Draco. He ranted about the “pureblood cat burglar”, as he’d deemed “him”, for two solid weeks after.

Sitting behind her desk, Ginny massaged her temples as she listened to her partner rehash the evidence for the tenth time that morning. “Malfoy, Pansy said she didn’t even care. It wasn’t a family heirloom, or anything. She didn’t even like that painting. Said it was cheeky, that it insulted her or something.”

He frowned and nodded. “I know. It’s not just that. It’s the pattern. Each piece was stolen after a party at the victim’s house. Do you have any idea where the next ball is to be held?”

“Yes, of course. Let me check my social register,” she said sarcastically. She ran her finger down the page of paperwork on her desk. “Uh huh. I’m due at Zabini’s for tea at four--”

“Malfoy manor. My home,” he interrupted. He slid a cream coloured envelope across the desk toward her. “I don’t want anyone breaking into my house. I’m sure that this bloke will try, and when he does, I’m going to be ready for him.”

Ginny stood and toyed with the envelope in her hands. “What do you think he’ll try to take?” she asked innocently.

He shook his head. “I don’t know. But I’m rather attached to all of the things in my home, and I don’t want to part with any of them. I think that this thief is sending a message to the purebloods. He’s just breaking in and taking something, anything, just to show he has power.”

“You think?” she ventured.

“I know. Well, we’ll see who has the power this weekend.” He looked at the piece of parchment in her hand. “Go on, open it.”

She slid her finger under the flap and unfolded the vellum inside. It was, of course, an invitation to the ball at Malfoy manor that weekend. She couldn’t suppress her delight when she read that it was a costume masque. She smiled delightedly at him, barely suppressing the happy but undignified squeak that threatened to bubble up inside her.

“So is that a yes? You’ll accompany me?”

She looked at him coyly through her lashes. “Oh, dear. I don’t know if I’ve had enough caffeine this morning to have the energy to form an answer.”

He looked at her and exhaled. “Right. I’ll be back.”

She caught his arm and turned him to face her. “I was joking, Malfoy. I’d love to go. It sounds…fun.”

He smiled. “You hesitated.”

“Well, it will take some time to wrap my head around putting “fun” and “Malfoy manor” in the same breath, but I think I can overcome.”

“Lucky me.” He sat down at his desk. “I’ll take care of the costumes, the woman making mine will only be too happy to make yours, as well.” He eyed her. “I’ll send her your measurements.”

Ginny put her hands on her hips. “And just how do you know my measurements?”

“Malfoys have all sorts of talents,” he said cryptically. “Trust me.”

“Right,” she murmured. “I might be a whole lot more trusting with a cup of coffee in front of me.”

He chuckled and sighed, rising to his feet. “Of course.”

She suppressed a grin as she watched the object of her reluctant affection cross to the door.

He turned and smiled at her before going through the door. “What have I gotten myself into?”

She glanced at the papers in front of her, pretending to look through them. “You should have thought of that before you started asking me out, Malfoy,” she said sweetly, smiling.
Chapter 4 by Persephone33
Ginny stood in front of the mirror again, impressed not only with Draco Malfoy once more, but also his seamstress, or whomever he’d hired to make her costume. It was absolutely gorgeous. She was supposed to be Guinevere, which she thought fitting, considering her name. It was a beautiful dress, cream coloured with light blue accents, a fitted bodice, and skirt that clung to her curves before falling to the floor. She adored the sleeves, which came to a point at the back of her hands. For the first time since she’d started dating him, or at least accompanying him to these parties, she felt truly beautiful.

She sighed happily and picked up the Portkey he’d given her to transport her to his entrance hall before all of the other guests arrived. It was a rather beautiful handkerchief, and matched her costume perfectly. He was so very thoughtful and charming. He consistently took care of her and seemed to be truly enamoured with her. She couldn’t believe that she’d ever not liked him. She had also come to a decision. Her days as a cat burglar were over. She didn’t care what she found in his home, she had fulfilled her promise to Parvati, and that would have to be enough. Ginny knew that she couldn’t ever take anything from Draco. She couldn’t.

She giggled as she felt the familiar tug of the Portkey. Draco. I just thought of him as Draco.

*********************************************

If Nott and the Parkinsons thought they had known how to throw a party, they’d just been proven wrong, in Ginny’s opinion. This was the most elaborate fete that she’d ever even imagined, in all of her girlish fantasies. Delightfully delicate ice sculptures glittered all around the rooms, which were breathtaking to say the very least, filled with people in colourful costumes and bedecked with jewels. There were splendid parquet floors charmed to look slick and sparkling without causing any dangerous accidents, Corinthian columns, matching those that framed the building’s front visage, that gave the walls a sense of understated elegance; but her favourite features were the ceilings, covered in stunning frescoes magically enhanced so that the viewer could see both the wider picture and the delicate details, depending on their desire. Ginny was especially delighted to find in one section a replica of a fresco from Pompeii, which she and Bill had waxed lyrical about when he’d brought her books on Antiquity whenever he came home from his travels.

Ginny was amused at Draco’s choice of costume. Being Guinevere, she’d assumed he would be Lancelot.

When she told him of her guess, he only scoffed. “Why be a knight when you can be a king?” he retorted, adjusting the crown and robes on his King Arthur costume. “Besides,” he whispered, pulling her close to him, “my Guinevere won’t betray me.”

She kissed him sweetly. “No,” she replied. “She won’t.”

Ginny sat at Draco’s right hand at dinner, which put the feasts they’d had at Hogwarts to shame. They somehow found the time to dance nearly every dance and still mingle with all of the guests, the sheer volume of which made Ginny’s head spin. Everything at the ball was going absolutely perfectly, the costumes were beautiful, the people were charming, and to Ginny’s immense relief, she hadn’t seen anything that looked like it had been taken from someone else during the war. It was late when the last of the guests had gone, and Draco spun Ginny around the entrance hall.

“Thank you so much, King Arthur,” she teased. “I’ve had a lovely time.”

He brought her hand to his lips. “As have I, Guinevere.” He tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. Would you like a drink?”

“Yes, please,” she replied.

They ventured down one of many corridors in his ancestral home, and ended up in what he’d told her was his study. It was a nice room, much less formal than the others that she’d been in that night, but still seemed uniquely Draco. He had a large desk with papers spilling off of the top on one side of the room, and an enormous fireplace with two chairs and a sofa surrounding it on the other. There were bookshelves lining every wall save one, filled with an assortment of books on every subject imaginable.

Draco poured them drinks, and Ginny snuggled up to him on the sofa before the fire. “How did we get here?” she asked. “Not too long ago, I didn’t even like you. It seems like this just happened overnight.”

Draco snorted. “Overnight? Good Merlin woman, I’ve spent the better part of a year trying to get you here.” He pulled her closer. “Now that you’re here, I’m not planning on letting you go.” He placed their drinks on the table before pulling her to him. His fingers trailed through her hair. “So beautiful,” he murmured. His hand cupped her face, gently cradling it as his mouth placed warm kisses down her neck. Ginny let out a small moan of delight, and was just starting to relax into his ministrations when a house elf interrupted them.

“I is sorry, Master, but there is a matter that needs your attention, sir.”

Draco glared at the elf and apologised to Ginny. “I’ll be right back. Don’t . . . don’t go anywhere.”

She sighed and leaned back into the cushions, looking about the room. I could definitely get used to this, she thought. She picked up her drink and began perusing the bookshelves. She was about to pull down a dog eared copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince, when the wall without the bookshelves attracted her eye. There was something there. She could feel traces of magic, but it wasn’t immediately obvious. She abandoned the book and her drink and went to stand before the wall.

She wasn’t sure what made her do it.

Ginny took out her wand and performed the revealing spell that Draco had done at Nott’s home and at the Parkinsons. The wall vanished and what was behind it made her heart jump into her chest and waves of nausea overtake her.

It was her clock, her mother’s clock. The Weasley clock. It was intact, with all of her brothers, her mother, father, and even her own face smiling down on her from the hands. She couldn’t choke back the sob that erupted from her throat. It was here. It was safe. She was momentarily relieved.

Then she realized what it meant. Draco or his parents had stolen this from the Burrow and then they had destroyed her childhood home. Even if Draco hadn’t been the wizard to do all of that, he hadn’t returned it. At worst, he had effectively lied to her for the last four years. At best, he’d kept something enormously important from her, which equated to the same thing in her book. All bets were off. She was definitely returning this to its rightful owner as soon as she could.

She wiped her eyes and reluctantly returned the wall back to its solid form, before walking slowly to the sofa, sinking into its depths. She had so many feelings running about in her heart: confusion, disappointment, and even anger, but underneath that, she knew that she still cared for Draco. This, however, keeping this from her, had hurt her more deeply than anything else he could’ve done.

When Draco returned, she rose from her seat and smiled at him. “Thank you so much for a lovely evening. I really must be getting home. I’ll see you at the office Monday, alright?” She placed a quick peck on his cheek and left him looking dumfounded in the middle of his study.

***********************************************

Later that night, after she had put on her dark clothes and mask, Ginny quietly crept back in to Malfoy manor. If Draco meant anything by his threat to ‘be ready,’ it sure doesn’t show, she thought idly.

She made her way silently back down the twisting corridors to the study, and crossed immediately to the empty wall. Using the same spell she’d used earlier, she dissolved the wall that concealed the clock.

It was empty. The small alcove that had held her family’s most prized possession only a few short hours ago was completely empty. She let out a growl of frustration.

“Looking for something?”

She spun around to find Draco sitting in one of the chairs at the fireplace, cut glass tumbler in hand. He spoke softly.

“There were so many clues, and I never put them together. I didn’t want to believe it was you. Even when I saw the muddy boots in your flat, and that book on Ancient Egyptian wizards missing, I gave you the benefit of the doubt.” He stood and crossed the room to pour himself another drink. “But then the ‘thief’ knew how to beat the charms I cast at Pansy’s. You’re the only other person who knows those, apart from me and my father. You told me that Pansy said that the portrait was ‘cheeky’. You weren’t even there when she told me about it being taken. You know more about casting and re-casting wards than is strictly normal for an Auror. There were muddy boots in your flat the second time I was there, they had the same black mud on them that ruined your shoes when we were at Nott’s.”

He drank deeply before continuing. “And the Vance girl. I ran into her at your flat when I was picking you up for the Parkinsons’ ball. I didn’t want to believe it was you. I still don’t. ‘A small, talented wizard’,” he repeated, quoting himself from weeks earlier. “I just got the sex wrong. It was a witch.”

Ginny took off the mask she was wearing and shook out her hair. “Are you going to take me to the Ministry?” she asked.

“Take you to the Ministry? Why would I do that? I’m in love with you, you daft girl.”

Ginny shook her head and laughed mirthlessly. “Now that’s a ridiculous thing to say.”

He frowned. “Why is it ridiculous?”

“It’s your job to arrest criminals,” she replied. “I am a criminal. I tried to steal something from you. You have to arrest me.”

“No, I don’t. I resigned this afternoon. I sent in an owl before you arrived for the party this evening.”

“You did?” she asked breathily. “What did you do with the clock?” she asked in a small voice. “Please say you didn’t destroy it.”

“Destroy it?” he asked incredulously. “Do you think me a monster? There is a shortage of really fine timepieces in the world, and although that one doesn’t technically tell the time, it is dead useful. I’ve used it on several occasions. I used it once when you were kidnapped, if you recall, and again later when you got into that scrape with that rogue band of Death Eaters.”

“That’s how you found me,” she whispered softly.

“It’s not like I spied on you constantly, but it was comforting to me to be able to know where you were at all times, just to know that you were safe.”

“Where is the clock now?”

“I sent it to your parents after you left. Anonymously, of course. Hopefully with a better anti-tracking spell than you used the first time.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

“So,” he put down his drink. “I’m ready for you to take me to the Ministry.”

“Why would I do that?”

“You’re an Auror. It’s your job to arrest criminals. I harboured stolen goods from the war, so I am a criminal.”

“I don’t see any stolen goods,” she said softly.

They looked at one another from across the room.

She broke the silence. “Don’t you want to know why I did it?”

He shrugged. “I assume for some noble purpose of returning things to their rightful owner? When Pansy told me the portrait was of Ravenclaw, I knew it couldn’t have been hers. And I saw that suit of armour you took from Theo’s. We sat right across from it, remember?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“So,” he began.

“So,” she replied.

He sat down on the sofa. “I can’t arrest you, and evidently you have no grounds to arrest me.”

She smiled slightly. “No, I don’t.”

“Then we are at an impasse.”

She moved across the room to sit beside him. “It appears as if we are.”

He took the mask from her hand and tossed it away. “I’ve never caught a thief before. I must say, it’s stimulating.”

“Is it?”

“Yes, absolutely.”

She reached out and took his hand. “What will I do without you to bring me coffee in the mornings, Draco?”

He smiled at the use of his first name. “Oh, I still plan on bringing you coffee every morning, Ginny. Just not at the Ministry.” He kissed the back of her hand. “That is to say, if you’re agreeable.”

She leaned in to him and murmured, “Yes. Yes, I think I am agreeable. I’ll have to be. You’re the only man who knows how I like my coffee.”

He claimed her lips with a kiss, and they sat comfortably before the fire, silently glad for the nobly intended crimes that had brought them together.
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